I started scrawling ideas for Pop-Up around the time Obama was elected into office. Almost two terms later, the movie’s finally finished. I must’ve inherited my dad’s stick-to-it-iveness; he spent 17 years building a boat.
Since 2008 I’ve made a tv series in Russia and Ukraine, a few music videos, 200+ commercials, and a rock opera. But Pop-Up was always there, nagging.
Finally, in early 2013, I decided to take the leap, and work on the movie full-time. I started putting ads on Gumtree – Australia’s answer to Craigslist – and began to assemble my team.
Meanwhile, I commenced a PhD at the University of Newcastle (the Aussie Newcastle, not the English one. We have beaches.) In addition to writing a thesis, Pop-Up was to be my major work, for which I’d have access to cool gear. “You had me at gear,” I said, possibly aloud.
Now, after almost three years at the grindstone and four previous years tinkering, the movie is finally completed. So the inevitable question is, “What’s it about?”
The easy answer is to recite our facebook synopsis. But a few people enquire deeper. “Yeah, but, what’s it about?” There was no Big Truth that I wanted to proclaim. I had three stories I thought might make a good movie, and through the process of writing, storyboarding, shooting, editing, mixing, and drinking heroic quantities of coffee, I began to unlock their secrets.
My first draft referenced a spark – a pinprick of hope – something to help put one foot in front of the other in a dark moment. This was soon abandoned for sounding a bit naff, but that ephemeral notion remained. I just needed to refine it so viewers wouldn’t choke on their popcorn.
In later drafts, the idea infused the dinner scene in Transylvania, where Richie, the lucky devil, is surrounded by three Romanian women. The mother equates love to an underground spring – that if blocked it will find a way out. Rada takes her advice, and makes pop-up cards as an outlet during her lowest of days.
Likewise, Mick still grieves his wife’s departure 8 years later. Sublimating his guilt, it manifests as a phobia. But upon finding Rada’s picture, something is sparked, waking a long-dormant passion as he seeks this mystery woman.
Perhaps Obama’s iconic HOPE poster subconsciously affected me, imprinting my impressionable new-born ideas? Granted, reducing an entire movie to a single word is somewhat reductive, but that’s at least a nice Q&A anecdote. As an indie filmmaker, sometimes hope is all you’ve got.
If you're lucky, you'll also have some bad stuff happen in your life, because the juiciest lemons make the best lemonade. My idea for Neil wanting to kill a critic arrived after my first movie, Spudmonkey, received a 2-star review. Many other story elements were derived from setbacks, big and small, personal and extrapersonal. Indie filmmaking is like therapy, without the comfy couch.
I hope that the viewer feels something when they watch Pop-Up. We’ve held a few test screenings of the work-in-progress, and a couple of Cast, Crew & Kickstarter screenings, and I’ll never forget when a crowdfunding friend said, “It was like you’d made a movie about me.”
Pop-Up is the confluence of hundreds of people working for thousands of hours, to arrange billions of ones and zeros in a certain order. If that effort gives one person some hopey changey stuff, then it’s all worth it.
Oh, and someone gets killed by a toothbrush. Did I mention that?